Thursday, April 07, 2022

The Age of the Árpád Dynasty - The missed opportunity of the Székesfehérvár exhibition

The year 2022 marks the 800th anniversary of the issuance of the Golden Bull by King Andrew II.  Issued at the 1222 Diet held at Fehérvár, the Golden Bull is one of the cornerstones of the medieval Hungarian constitutional system and its anniversary created a perfect opportunity to organize a major exhibition dedicated to Hungary's first ruling house, the Árpád Dynasty. Such an exhibition has been planned for at least a decade and curators at the Hungarian National Museum have prepared a proposal for a major exhibition with international loans. In 2017 government support came, along with the decision that the exhibition should be held at Székesfehérvár, to mark the anniversary of the Golden Bull and to inaugurate a newly renovated museum building belonging to the King Saint Stephen Museum. Curators were appointed from both institutions and the long work of securing loans and preparing a catalog was began. At the beginning of 2019 a new government-funded institution, the Institute of Hungarian Research started its operations. The Minister of Human Resources (in charge of cultural affairs) delegated this Institute to the consortium preparing the exhibition. Work continued and the scheduled date of opening was nearing - although the renovation of the Székesfehérvár museum building was not yet completed.

Installation view

Then late in December of 2021, Miklós Kásler, Minister of Human Resources - in agreement with the newly appointed director of the Hungarian National Museum, László L. Simon - announced in an email that the appointment of the curators (Etele Kiss, Ágnes Ritoók, and Erika Simonyi of the Hungarian National Museum) is being withdrawn, and Miklós Makoldi of the Institute of Hungarian Research is appointed as the new curator of the exhibition. Making such a move three months before the opening of a major exhibition is quite surprising even in Hungary and naturally, a scandal broke out. Given the fact that Miklós Makoldi, an archeologist without a doctorate and any relevant museum-related expertise was about to take over the results of three years of work by a team of experienced museum curators, many scholars decided that they no longer wish to participate in such a project. In the end, 25 scholars signed an open letter, withdrawing their contributions from the catalog of the exhibition (which was already nearing completion). In this situation, many people doubted that the exhibition could be opened at all. In the end, the exhibition - titled Kings and Saints, The Era of the Árpád Dynasty - opened on March 18, 2022, in a former monastery turned into a museum at Székesfehérvár. Due to the circumstances, however, the result amounts to a monumental missed opportunity.

The Monomachos Crown (Hungarian National Museum)

Let me explain in detail. Makoldi, the new curator of the exhibition, had no chance or time to change the concept of the exhibition. He only modified three rooms of the exhibition, mainly to remove references to the non-Hungarian population of medieval Hungary (including Carolingians and Slavs from the first section dealing with the Hungarian conquest and a chapter about Muslims, Jews, and various Eastern nomadic people living in the Kingdom of Hungary). You can read the explanation of the Institute and see for yourself. In any case, the new curator worked with the original synopsis and object list - taking over other people's work, if you will. However, the original concept could not be realized. Several important loans did not make it to Székesfehérvár (the Cross of Adelheid from Lavantall is one such object mentioned in the press, but there are many others). It is hard to tell what role the scandal played in the case of missing loans - I think the venue in Székesfehérvár may also have played a role in this. Not the address itself, but the fact that the museum building in Székesfehérvár was completed just a few weeks before the opening of the exhibition, so lenders could not verify that it is up to international standards needed for sensitive objects. 

Lehel's horn from Jászberény

Enklopion from Maastricht
The exhibition mounted with the remaining objects still contains many highlights and presents a good overview of Árpád-age Hungary. According to the original concept, the objects are arranged in 17 sections, ranging from the period of the Hungarian Conquest to an overview of saints from the Árpád Dynasty. The website of the exhibition (a work in progress at the time of writing) lists the chapters. Many of the highlights - the Monomachos Crown, the crown with lilies from Margaret Island, or some stone carvings - come from the Hungarian National Museum. There are important objects from Székesfehérvár and other Hungarian museums (such as the Lehel's horn/olifant from Jászberény).  A number of recent archaeological finds - such as a reliquary and other finds from Pétermonostora - are on view. There are numerous foreign loans as well: the sword of Saint Stephen from Prague, stone carvings from former monasteries now located in Serbia or Romania, important manuscripts from various libraries, a flag with the double-cross of the Árpád Dynasty from Bern, or even the tombstone of the Blessed Elisabeth of Töss, daughter of King Andrew III (from the Landesmuseum in Zürich). True highlights, such as the 12th century double cross in the Dommuseum of Salzburg and especially the highly sophisticated 13th-century court goldsmith works (the Zaviš-cross, the cross made from diadems in Cracow or the Bern (Königsfelden) diptych) are sadly missing from the exhibition. Granted, such loans are extremely hard to secure and not all of these objects were even envisioned in the original scenario of the exhibition - but such an exhibition is a one-time chance in a generation and this chance was sadly missed. 

A display of stone carvings

The exhibition also does not take advantage of being in Székesfehérvár. Although there are references to the royal basilica dedicated to the Virgin - the coronation church and most important burial place of Hungarian kings - the actual site of the church was closed at the time of my visit (although supposedly it is open daily from April 1st). The highly important Árpád-period stone carvings from this church remain largely inaccessible - a museum scheduled to become their new home will open only by the end of the year.

Finds from Pétermonostora

Moreover, it is obvious that the new curator and his team scrambled to put the exhibition together in the three months at their disposal. As there is no list of the exhibition team, it is hard to tell who did what, but two weeks after the opening day, the exhibition looked half-finished. All the rooms are darkly lit (even rooms with stone carvings and goldsmith objects), the object labels are quite impossible to read and some of them are even missing. Some key objects are placed in dark corners or close to the floor, or at the back of large showcases. The larger exhibition graphics are unnecessary and badly designed in general: a section of the Bayeaux tapestry stands in to illustrate 11th-century battles in Hungary, the Legend of Saint Ladislas from the Hungarian Angevin Legendary was adapted to a graphic of a fake medieval stained glass window series, some kings lifted from the 14th-century Illuminated Chronicle are mislabeled, etc. There is no explanation for the complete lack of any information in English in the exhibition. There are some interactive video screens - but no new content was developed for them, they simply show films recycled from other venues and exhibitions. Of course, there is no catalog in any language or any publication whatsoever, due to the lack of authors (see above). All this makes it impossible to reach any kind of international impact with the exhibition All this despite the 506 million HUF (about 1,3 million euros) budget from government support dedicated to the exhibition. A missed opportunity, indeed.

13th-century crown from Margaret Island, HNM

Despite these significant shortcomings, do visit the exhibition if you get a chance. Objects that are otherwise hard to see and some highlights are definitely worth a visit. The original concept of the exhibition can still be followed (as long as you read Hungarian...) and Székesfehérvár is only about 45 minutes from Budapest by train. The exhibition will be on view until June 15, 2022.

Fragments from the tomb of Queen Gertrude, from Pilis Abbey

14th-century reliquary of St. Stephen from Aachen

(photos my own, taken with permission)

Tuesday, April 05, 2022

Restoration of the Medieval Church of Sóly

The restoration of the medieval church of Sóly was finally completed after two decades of research and renovation. The village of Sóly is located near Veszprém and its church was first mentioned in 1009, in the foundation charter of the bishopric of Veszprém, issued by King Saint Stephen. There is a theory that Sóly is the location where the young Stephen defeated Koppány in 997, three years before his coronation. The present church, however, dates from the 13th century and was dedicated to St. Stephen Protomartyr. Archeological research identified the traces of an earlier, wooden church under the present edifice. The 13th-century building consists of a simple one-aisled nave and a rectangular sanctuary. The place was turned into a fortress at the time of the Ottoman occupation. From this period, a number of burials have been found inside the building. The damaged building was finally restored in 1706 and was embellished several times. By this time, the community and their church were Calvinist. Rich painted ornamental frames decorate the windows, embellished with biblical verses. In 1724, a painted wooden gallery was installed in the nave, and the church was adorned with painted coffered ceilings as well. As these elements were purchased and installed by the Museum of Applied Arts in Budapest during the 1890s, they were now recreated in the form of copies. The original wooden balustrade in the sanctuary of the church, however, was at this occasion returned to the church. The western tower of the church was built in 1903.

Inside the nave of the church, a medieval fresco of the Crucifixion was uncovered in 2018. The stylistic features of this painting and the Cosmatesque border decoration around it indicate that it was painted in the 14th century. Possibly it was part of a larger cycle - but no other paintings have been found in the church. The newly restored church was ceremoniously opened on March 20, 2022. Contact the pastor to visit.

Crucifixion fresco in the nave

Here is a small video of the restored church.

Sunday, March 27, 2022

Medieval Manuscripts in Esztergom

From the 11th to the 31st of March, an exhibition presents the medieval manuscripts of the Cathedral Libray of Esztergom. Titled "For They Watch for Your Souls..." - Codices in the Cathedral Library of Esztergom, the exhibition is on view in the newly restored exhibition rooms of the Bibliotheca.

The Cathedral Library of Esztergom preserves forty-five medieval manuscript books, which are displayed together for the first time now, in March 2022. The exhibition honors the archbishops and canons of Esztergom as well as the donators and previous owners of the manuscripts, by whose generosity the library became the largest collection of codices among ecclesiastical libraries of Hungary. The written culture of medieval Hungary is represented by fourteen codices copied in various Hungarian scriptoria. Two old Hungarian manuscripts - early linguistic records - stand out from among the Latin books on account of their special value. The Nagyszombat Codex was prepared in the monastery of the Poor Clares in Óbuda. It contains meditations and guides for penance and confession. The Jordánszky Codex is the most complete medieval Bible translation into Hungarian, and is named after is former owner, Elek Jordánszky, a canon of Esztergom. Out of the codices preserved in the Cathedral Library of Esztergom, without a doubt three were used in Esztergom before 1543. These are the 12th-century Expositiones super Cantica Canticorum, László Szalkai's (1475-1526) schoolbook written by the future archbishop between 1489 and 1490, and the codex of vicar-general Albert Pesthy. The manuscript collection owned by the Archbishop and the Chapter of Esztergom was further enriched during the sojourn of the Archbishopric in Nagyszombat (Trnava, Slovakia). Liturgical books and astronomical works were acquired, as well as a manuscript containing letters by Saint Gregory the Great, copied in the Benedictine Abbey of Moissac in the 11th century. In 1555, Nicholaus Olah )1493-1568), archbishop of Esztergom, donated the two-volume Bakócs Gradual to the church of Esztergom The luxurious Wladislav Gradual originates from Prague from the first decade of the 16th century. It holds Bohemian musical material, richly illuminated with historiated initials as well as border decorations with floral motifs, animal figures, and scenes from everyday life.

Title page from the Bakócz Gradual (Ms. I. 1a-1b.)

After the library moved back to Esztergom in 1853, János Scitovszky (1785-1866), archbishop of Esztergom, József Dankó and Nándor Knauz, canons of Esztergom each bequeathed four codices to the collection. Among these, there was a 12th-century cathedral schoolbook containing a commentary of the Song of Songs among other texts, and several manuscripts of Bohemian origin.

Psalter from Saxony, 1279 (Ms. II.5)

Most codices in the library originated and were used in Central Europe, in Bohemia, Vienna, and Southern Germany. Nevertheless, some of the manuscripts came from the English, Italian, and French territories. The decoration of Peter Lombard's commentary on the Psalms is a high-quality product of English miniature painting. The exhibited manuscripts present a wide range of medieval ecclesiastical literature encompassing books on liturgy, theology, church law, astronomy, lexicography, as well as sermon collections, prayer books, and schoolbooks. 
The digital copies of the codices can be viewed on the website of the Cathedral Library of Esztergom, on the Bibliotheca Digitalis subpage. Ther scholarly descriptions were prepared by the HAS-NSZL Res Libraria Hungariae Research Group.  This part of the database seems to work only in Hungarian for the moment.

The exhibition coincides with the publication of a catalog describing with great erudition the medieval manuscripts preserved in the Esztergom book collections (The Codices of the Cathedral Library of Esztergom, the Archiepiscopal Simor Library, and the Esztergom City Library). The book was edited by Edit Madas and written by Kinga Körmendy, Judit Lauf, Edit Madas, and Gábor Sarbak. Kinga Körmendy's thorough introduction presents the history of the collections and the detailed descriptions are accompanied by various indices, appendices, a bibliography, and color plates. The book is the most recent volume of the Fragmenta et codices in bibliothecis Hungariae series. The book can be ordered here: A German-language version of the catalog is forthcoming.

(Text and photos by the Cathedral Library of Esztergom) 

Wladislav Gradual (Ms. I. 3a)

Wednesday, February 02, 2022

In memoriam László Beke (1944-2022)

László Beke (1944-2022)
On January 31, 2022, art historian László Beke passed away in Budapest. He was 78 years old. He was one of the most well-known figures of Hungarian art history in recent decades and he was primarily known for his research of 20th-century art. As chief curator of the Modern Department at the Hungarian National Gallery (1988-1995) and as director of the Műcsarnok (Kunsthalle, 1995-2000), he was instrumental in making Hungarian conceptual art and neo-avantgarde known to the wider public. From the beginning of his career in 1968, Beke was actually a key figure in the Hungarian contemporary art world, much of which verged on illegality. As participant, organizer, and researcher of this period, he left behind a very significant body of work. For the general public, he is most well-known for one of his early publications (apart from his directorial positions): In 1985, he wrote a high-school textbook on art history, which remained in use for decades. Titled Analyzing artworks, it shaped the early approach to art objects for a generation. 

However, László Beke started his career as a medieval art historian: he wrote his MA thesis on the gold background ornaments of medieval panel paintings and then - encouraged by Éva Kovács - he started researching medieval goldsmith works. His 1976 dissertation on filigree enamels was published in 1980 by the Art History Research Group (later Institute) of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences - the institute where Beke worked from 1969 to 1988 and where he later served as director between 2000-2011. László Beke also participated in the 1987 exhibition on King and Emperor Sigismund, being one of the editors of the two-volume catalogue. He was also one of the editors of the English-language Festschrift in honour of Ernő Marosi, published in 2010 on Hungarian medieval art and titled Bonum ut pulchrum.

The 1980 publication on filigree enamel decoration (Sodronyzománcos ötvösművek) traces the history and origin of this decorative technique, which became particularly popular in 15th century Hungary. The work includes a complete catalogue of medieval goldsmith objects with filigree enamel decoration and remains the most complete survey of this material, which makes it invaluable to this day. Despite its very average print quality (resembling a photocopied thesis) the 173 black and white reproductions are also unsurpassed regarding this topic.

Filigree enamel decoration on the foot of the Suki-chalice, c. 1437 (Esztergom, Cathedral Treasury)

The career of László Beke was summarized by Ernő Marosi in 2014, on the occasion of his seventieth birthday (Ernő Marosi: László Beke turns seventy. Acta Historiae Artium 55, 2014). Those of you reading Hungarian can also read an interview with Beke in MúzeumCafé (31, 2012). Beke's inquisitive mind made him a great company at conferences, exhibition openings, excursions, and any other art historical events. I remember fondly our conversations over the last few decades. He will be greatly missed.

László Beke with Jaynie Anderson at the 2007 CIHA Conference in Budapest, at the Museum of Applied Arts

Wednesday, August 04, 2021

Medieval Charters from the Batthyány Family Archives enter the National Archives

Charter of King Béla IV, 1256

On August 2, 2021, it was announced at a press conference that the collection of the Hungarian National Archives had been enriched with 520 original charters, which the Hungarian state had purchased from the Batthyány family for a price of 5,6 million EUR.

This collection consists of the most important documents in the Batthyány family archives originally held at Körmend. Members of the family took these charters with them in 1945 and preserved them in Austria until now. The remainder of the archives was badly damaged when the Soviet army plundered the Batthyány mansion at Körmend. Anything saved after that event was nationalized in 1949 and has been preserved at the National Archives since (it is estimated that about 15 percent of the medieval charters were destroyed in 1945).

Görgy Rácz, deputy director of the National Archives, explained at the press conference that the newly purchased collection contains the historically most important part of the family archives and is filled with irreplaceable documents of medieval Hungarian history, as the members of the Batthyány family held high government positions for centuries.

One box of the Batthyány-charters

Most of the charters are from the three series of the old archives of the Batthyány family preserved at Körmend castle until 1945: the Memorabilia (297 diplomas) series is the most valuable historical material of the Batthyány archives from the national point of view. The new acquisition makes this former series almost complete. Here the earliest piece is King Louis the Great's charter of 1352 on the nobility of the Pechenegs in Fejér County. There are also letters from King Louis II from 1526, calling Ferenc Batthyány to battle against the Turks - dating from just a couple of weeks before the catastrophic Battle of Mohács. The other outstanding part of the collection is the so-called Heimiana or “Himfiana” series, which was the family archive of the Himfis of Döbrente, one of the most influential baronial families of the Anjou era. Their charters went to the Batthyánys, who preserved them. The documents purchased now contain 141 pieces of this series, including 11 charters from the Árpádian period and 125 from the Anjou period. The third series is Acta Antiqua (48 charters), which contains the oldest documents concerning property in the family’s ancient estate. The earliest piece in this series is the 1355 charter of King Louis the Great.

Charter with the seal of King Sigismund, 1411

The documents will now join the other part of the Batthyány family archives in the National Archives as part of the nation's cultural heritage, where they will be available for scientific research after their inventory, processing, and digitization. All the medieval charters of the Batthyány family archives already in the National Archives can be consulted in the Hungaricana database.

Source of text and photos: Hungarian National Archives, Budapest

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

In memoriam Ernő Marosi (1940–2021)

Ernő Marosi in 2017

Ernő Marosi (1940–2021), professor emeritus at the Institute of Art History of ELTE and a full member of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, died on July 9, 2021, at the age of 81. With his death, we lost one of the most important Hungarian art historians of our time. His impact as a researcher and author of groundbreaking books as well as a teacher for almost six decades is immeasurable.

A simple listing of his professional positions does not do justice to his career. He started teaching at the Department of Art History at ELTE in 1963, immediately after graduating. In addition, he was a researcher at the Art History Research Institute of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, serving as the director of the Institute between 1991 and 2000.  He had been a full member of the Hungarian Academy of Science since 2001 and from 2002 to 2008, he was the Vice President of the Academy. He also taught at the Central European University and was an active board member of CIHA. Research fellowships took him to places such as Washington D.C., where he was a Senior Visiting Fellow at CASVA in 1991, and Berlin. Among the prizes he received was the prestigious Széchenyi Prize (1997) and the Commander's Cross with Star of the Hungarian Order of Merit (2009). He continued teaching even after his retirement and remained active as a researcher until his death. 

His contribution to the field of medieval art history is better measured by his groundbreaking publications, which cover all areas of Hungarian medieval art. His research fundamentally re-wrote our knowledge of the field, placing Hungarian monuments in their broader, European context. During his career, there were several topics which he often revisited, providing new insights and interpretations to the most important monuments of medieval Hungary. His publications cover very diverse subjects ranging in time from the Coronation Mantle donated to the Székesfehérvár provostry by King Saint Stephen in 1031 to the patronage of Matthias Corvinus. Among his most important publications, we should first mention his book on the beginnings of Gothic architecture in Hungary, published in 1984 (Die Anfänge der Gotik in Ungarn. Esztergom in der Kunst des 12–13. Jahrhunderts. Budapest, Akadémiai Kiadó, 1984). A catalogue on stone carvings from the Árpádian-period and an illustrated overview of Hungarian art of the Árpádian-period (1997, co-authored with Tünde Wehli) also attest to his interest in architecture and stone carving of the 12th-13th centuries. The other focus of his research was the art of the 14th and early 15th centuries, primarily the period of King Sigismund. His dissertation focused on the Church of St. Elisabeth at Kassa (Košice), which was then published as a series of studies. Starting from 1974, he provided the proper art historical context for the famous statue find of Buda castle, a key monument of Central European sculpture of the International Gothic period. He co-organized two exhibitions on this period: first, in 1982 on art at the time of King Louis the Great (1342-1382) and in 1987, on the period of King Sigismund (1387-1437). Parallel to this work, Ernő Marosi edited and co-wrote the monumental handbook on Art in Hungary, 1300-1470 (published in 1987). In a series of later studies and in his academic doctoral dissertation, he almost immediately started to deconstruct the picture of the period given in the handbook, reflecting on new finds and providing new approaches (see especially: Image and Likeness: Art and Reality in the 14th and 15th Centuries in Hungary. Budapest, Akadémiai Kiadó, 1995). In 2006, he was one of the key advisors and authors of the new exhibition dedicated to the period of King Sigismund (Sigismundus Rex et Imperator, Budapest-Luxemburg, 2006). 

Ernő Marosi examining the inner reliquary of St. Ladislas, 2004

Another focus of his research was historiography, especially the 19th-century beginnings of Hungarian art history. He edited a number of source collections on art historical writing as well as a volume on Hungary and the Vienna School of art history (Die ungarische Kunstgeschichte und die Wiener Schule 1846–1930, Vienna, 1983). He also wrote a basic overview of the methods of art history aimed at students (1973). He also dealt extensively with issues of monument protection and museum history - often writing on contemporary issues in these fields as well. Naturally, he was a keen observer of contemporary art as well.

As a university professor, he also provided some of the basic surveys and textbooks on medieval art in Hungarian. In 1972, he wrote a survey book on Romanesque art, which was later expanded into a textbook on the art of the Middle Ages, 10001250 (published in 1996). This was soon followed by a second, much larger volume on the art of the Middle Ages, 12501500, published in 1997. He also wrote overviews of Hungarian Romanesque Art (2013) and Gothic Art (2008). His collection of primary sources on medieval art translated into Hungarian (first published in 1969 and then in an expanded edition in 1997) is a much-used source collectionto this day.

During his long career, he published hundreds of studies in various journals, conference volumes, and exhibition catalogues. Coinciding with his 80th birthday, a three-volume collection of his selected studies on medieval art was published, coordinated by the Thesaurus mediaevalis research group led by Imre Takács (Fénylik a mű nemesen”. Válogatott írások a középkori művészet történetéből. Budapest, Martin Opitz Kiadó, 2020). The book makes available many of his studies published internationally, in the form of newly made and annotated Hungarian translations prepared by Marosi himself. The ninety studies in two volumes are accompanied by a third volume containing 1359 illustrations. A bibliography of his publications is also included there: it fills almost forty pages of the book. His colleagues and students paid tribute to his work in a Festschrift published for his seventieth birthday (Bonum ut pulchrum. Essays in Art History in Honor of Ernő Marosi on his Seventieth Birthday. Eds. Lívia Varga - László Beke - Anna Jávor - Pál Lővei - Imre Takács. Budapest, Argumentum, 2010) and he was also celebrated with a conference organized by the Institute of Art History of ELTE, titled Disputatio de quodlibet. In 2010 and 2020, Enigma, a journal of art theory, published two thematic issues dedicated to Ernő Marosi (Enigma vols. 61 and 100).

Ernő Marosi in 2005

Like generations of art historians studying in Budapest, I took some of my first art history classes with Ernő Marosi, who taught European medieval art. He was my supervisor when I was an MA student in medieval studies at Central European University (1994–1995) and encouraged my doctoral studies, suggesting I work on the newly discovered fresco cycle at the Augustinian Church at Siklós. Later, he would also serve as an external reader of my dissertation, which was supervised by Walter Cahn at Yale University. I had a chance to work with Ernő Marosi on numerous occasions after I returned to Hungary – especially during the preparations for the international exhibition on King Sigismund (2006). He participated in the international conference organized in Luxemburg (2005) in conjunction with the exhibition and also provided the art historical commentary for a digital edition of the Viennese manuscript of Eberhard Windecke's chronicle on Emperor Sigismund (Eberhard Windecke emlékirata Zsigmond királyról és koráról = Eberhard Windeckes Denkwürdigkeiten zur Geschichte des Zeitalters Kaiser Sigmunds. Budapest, Arcanum, 2009). More recently, Marosi published numerous studies on late medieval wall painting – including an introductory essay to a volume on wall paintings in north-eastern Hungary, co-authored by me (2009) and edited by Tibor Kollár. In June of this year, he graciously agreed to present our new book on medieval wall paintings in Zólyom County (Zsombor Jékely – Gergely Kovács: Falfestészeti emlékek a középkori Zólyom vármegye területén. Ed. Tibor Kollár. Budapest, 2021), although his illness prevented him from fulfilling the task. He was an inspiration and mentor to me for 30 years and he will surely inspire future generations of art historians, even those who never had a chance to meet him. He will be greatly missed.

A final, personal note: Thirty-one years ago, as a first-year art history student, I had an opportunity to travel to France. Ernő Marosi's lectures on medieval art were a fresh experience - the notes of his lectures served as my guide on my trip. I visited everything from Romanesque pilgrimage churches in the south of France to the great Gothic cathedrals of northern France and the late Gothic and Renaissance castles of the Loire Valley. After my first year of college and this French tour, I decided definitively that I would like to pursue medieval art. In 2021, news of the death of my teacher, Ernő Marosi, reached me inside the Benedictine abbey church of St. Denis, the birthplace of Gothic.

Ernő Marosi and Zsombor Jékely listening to József Lángi, 2019

* (Most of the links above take you to full-text versions of some publications written or edited by Ernő Marosi. Photos by Attila Mudrák and the author).

Friday, July 02, 2021

Two New Exhibitions on Monastic History at the Hungarian National Museum

In the middle of June 2021, two exhibitions opened at the Hungarian National Museum in Budapest, each dedicated to the history of a monastic order.

The first exhibition is dedicated to the 900 anniversary of the foundation of the Premonstratensian (Norbertine) order. The members of the order have been present in Hungary almost since its foundation. In the last centuries, the Premontreians were also participants and shapers of Hungarian society, religious life, art and science. On the occasion of the anniversary, the Hungarian Norbertine Order  and the Hungarian National Museum presents the history of the order in a joint exhibition. The exhibition provides an overview of the spirituality, founding, past and present of the order in Hungary. It presents the material heritage of the Premonstratensians in Hungary and highlights the contribution of the members of the order to the Hungarian culture. In addition to the works and documents preserved in the abbeys and monasteries of the order in Hungary today, the nine-hundred-year-old Hungarian history of the order comes to life through a number of works of art borrowed from many domestic and foreign collections. The exhibition presents a number of important medieval churches of the order, in particular Zsámbék, Rátót, Ócsa, and Lelesz, displaying stone carvings and copies of medieval wall paintings as well. 

The other exhibition (postponed from last year) is dedicated to the most important order established in medieval Hungary: the Pauline order. The exhibition was organized on the occasion of the 750th anniversary of the death of Boldog Özséb, the founder of the order and it gives a comprehensive picture of this Hungarian monastic order. Considering that the Hungarian origin of the order and the history of the order are little known, the exhibition mainly presents the Pauline history as well as the modern life of the Paulines, highlighting the historical role of the Polish center of the order at Częstochowa.

The exhibited objects (archeological finds, medieval manuscripts, modern prints, liturgical objects, numerous sculptures, paintings and engravings) testify to the rich heritage of the order. Among several Pauline manuscripts, three come from ELTE University Library, these can also be consulted online: A 115, Cod. Lat. 115, Cod. Lat. 131

Fragment from the tomb of Saint Paul the Hermit,
from the Pauline church of Budaszentlőrinc, c. 1490
 (Budapest History Museum)

Both exhibitions remain on view at the Hungarian National Museum until the middle of September 2021.